Ramirez, shorthanded Jags beat Eagles

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With only 10 players on the field for the final 46 minutes of Tuesday’s match, the Valencia High boys soccer team managed to hold off a determined Belen squad.

Jason W. Brooks-News-Bulletin photo: Valencia’s Diego Ramirez, center, knifes between Belen’s Chris Lovato, left, and Paul Rivera in Tuesdy’s District 6-4A match. Valencia’s Alan Ramirez scored in the 78th minute to lift the Jaguars to a 3-2 win in the intense match, and Valencia will play an 11 a.m. match at Los Lunas on Saturday.

Alan Ramirez’s goal with two minutes left in the match gave host Valencia a 3-2 win over the Eagles, who played with a one-man advantage after Zeus Mendoza of VHS was given a red card in the 34th minute. It was one of the most fired-up performances for the young Belen team, and it took an intense, team-like effort for the Jaguars to prevail.

“We didn’t bring our ‘A’ game today,” said VHS boys coach Eric Gutierrez after the match. “We took some long shots, early on, out of pure nervousness. We were in the mode of ‘Let’s get something done’ instead of passing to players. We just needed to calm down.

The win made the Jaguars 6-5 overall and 2-2 in District 6-4A going into the 11 a.m. Saturday showdown at Los Lunas High. Belen (2-11, 1-3) is set to host Grants at that same time.

Belen was playing without several regulars, including Elmer Flores, Francisco Legarda, Alan Hidalgo and goalkeeper Alejandro Chaves. BHS coach Danny Krow said five players were recently declared not eligible, meaning his already young lineup instantly became even younger.

“We went from one eighth-grader in the starting lineup to five starting eighth-graders,” said Krow.

The Belen group that played Tuesday showed more effort than the more veteran players had shown in previous matches. After Valencia went up 2-0 early, Belen got a pair of goals to tie it up.

Johnny Tapia scored on a long shot, only three minutes into the match, off a pass from Joel Molina.

Molina converted a penalty kick after a seemingly light-contact play in the 14th minute, as he beat Eagle goalkeeper Michael Vialpando for the 2-0 lead.

However, Belen seemed to get more calls to go its way as the physical match went along. Chris Lovato put in direct kicks from just outside the 18-yard line, in the 19th and 32nd minutes, before Mendoza’s red card in the 34th minute took the Jaguars down to 11 players.

The card was issued by the referee after Mendoza took down Belen’s Alejandro Ramirez, who had to be helped off the field, but didn’t appear to be seriously hurt. By rule, Mendoza must sit out Saturday’s match at Los Lunas.

“Zeus touched the ball first, but the referee told me there was an intent to injure,” said Gutierrez.

Belen started to get more opportunities in the second half, although the Eagles were outshot in the match, 10-3. Lovato was moved to sweeper in Krow’s shuffled lineup, and he knocked down several balls and neutralized some VHS chances.

In the 78th minute, Diego Ramirez passed to Alan Ramirez, who lofted a soft shot over Vialpando’s head and into the goal. The Jags then held on for the win.

Diego Ramirez said his team really didn’t play that well, but the adjustment of passing the ball on the ground paid off.

“Coach told us they (the Eagles) were winning too many balls, and to keep the ball down,” said Diego Ramirez. “We really didn’t play our game today. We can play better.”

A few Jaguar players missed some minutes Tuesday due to cramping — especially in the second half.

“The guys just do not seem to get that they have to eat right, and that hydration is a complex thing,” said Gutierrez.

Lovato, already a Belen team leader as a freshman, seemed frustrated Tuesday, especially in getting the least-experienced Eagles to play harder.

“That’s why we made Chris a captain (along with senior Antonio Baca),” said Krow. “I’m real proud of how all our young guys did. Michael (Vialpando) played the game of his life. We made some mental mistakes, and there were a few bad calls, but we should have won that game.”

Tuesday, the Eagles play at Los Lunas, while Valencia hosts Gallup. Both matches are at 4 p.m.

Krow said that his program is so short-handed now, it will be dificult to play varsity and junior varsity matches on the same day. He only has about five full-time varsity players, and the rest play on both teams.

Gutierrez said the Jaguars’ formation and match execution are finally coming around.

“It’s taken a while,” he said. “We just have a few nooks and crannies to close up.”


-- Email the author at jbrooks@news-bulletin.com.